Monday, July 17

In the Washington Times, Diana West wrote an excellent piece titled "Deluded America." I thought she made some great points. Here's my edit of what struck me as her best points (though I encourage everyone to read her original):
Someone wrote that when a civilized society is attacked by a barbarous one, if the members of the former are to prevail, the civilized group will be unavoidably degraded by the experience.

In part this is because civilized societies strive to conduct war according to unwritten rules, under which the civilized society absorbs certain costs and military inefficiencies in the interest of humanitarianism: Thus we don't shoot prisoners but instead give them medical care on the battlefield, for example. When jihadists use women and children as human shields in a firefight, our troops usually don't shoot, even if it means letting the jihadists escape to fight another day.

By contrast, barbaric societies embrace even the most inhuman tactics--exploding a nail-wrapped bomb in a crowded market, for example--to strike terror into anyone not on their side.

Because the civilized society is more humane, and willingly takes on the burdens associated with acting humanely even when fighting a war, when two sides of roughly equal strength are locked in a fight to the death, the civil society is likely to lose. In such a case, it must break its own rules of war if it is to prevail.

In WW2, the Allies used some previously unthinkable tactics to defeat Germany and Japan. For example, bombing cities, even rail transportation hubs, was beyond civilized conventions, but the Allies believed they had to do that to win. Our political leaders chose to kill relatively innocent civilians because they believed it was the only way to win the war.

Did bombing Dresden or dropping two atom bombs to convince Japan to surrender make the Allies barbarians? I think most people would say it didn't, and would argue that such awful measures were necessary to save our civilization — and certainly thousands of mainly American and Allied lives. Of course the unstated principle behind this argument is that Allied lives — our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons — counted for more than the lives of the German and Japanese civilians killed in those bombings.

Apparently many Americans no longer believe American lives are that valuable. If we still valued the lives of our own troops more than those of terrorists and the "civilians" they hide among — and now I'm referring to the war in Iraq — we would drop bombs on city blocks, for example, rather than waste the lives of our troops in deadly house-to-house searches. We would destroy terrorist sanctuaries in Syria and Iran and not disarm "insurgents" at perilous checkpoints in hostile Iraqi strongholds.

Today there is something the elites of American society value more than the lives of American soldiers — and possibly more than the survival of our way of life. That something is the moral superiority that comes from a good wallow in Abu Ghraib, Haditha, CIA interrogations or Guantanamo Bay. Morally superior people — as American elites consider themselves — would never "humiliate" prisoners, never kill civilians, never torture or incarcerate jihadists. Indeed, morally superior people prosecute -- to include the death penalty -- any American G.I. who does such things.

While this lets the elites feel even more morally superior to the rest of us, it doesn't win wars. The reason is that such smugness causes a kind of paralysis. The morally superior (read: paralyzed) believe no culture is better or worse than any other. As a result, they see no reason why they should favor the American side in any armed conflict.

To these self-styled elites, favoring one civilization over another would be judgmental --which is to them a sign of unsophistication or moral inferiority. They regard being non-judgmental as a higher form of behavior. Such people would bar torture of a terrorist even if torture would result in information that would save an American city. Because torture is uncivilized, they'd rather sacrifice American lives than to stoop to it.

Certainly, using barbarous tactics damages us in some way. And it may well be that our huge edge in technology will enable us to win without stooping to such tactics. But we need to understand that following the fastidious rules advocated by the elites has a direct and terrible cost in unnecessary deaths of American troops--and possibly American civilians.

The elites, of course, don't care. Because to them, American soldiers are no better than the people who hack off the head of a live human being.

Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, RIP.
As many have noted, war is a nasty business, and there's no denying that on rare occasions our side has done some pretty ghastly things in wartime--both acts of individual soldiers in the heat of battle and decisions by top leaders in offices far from the front lines. But we generally recognize these acts as either mistakes or aberrations, and try to ensure they don't happen again.

The bombing of Dresden is an example.

But with that said, I can't agree with Americans who claim that we're no better than terrorists.

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